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Fiji: Speight & Chiefs Meet Today

Fiji: Speight & Chiefs Meet Today, Remaining Hostages Still Not Released

The meeting between the Great Council of Chiefs and George Speight’s rebels has started, but the remaining 18 hostages have still not been released from the parliamentary complex in Suva.

A sticking point in the negotiations is a decree handing over power from the military.

The rebels say the military should have signed a decree handing over power to an interim government before the meeting with the chiefs. They say they will not release the hostages until the military sign the decree.

The military say they cannot sign the decree until the elections of a new regime, as they believe the move would not be constitutional.

The Council of Chiefs and the rebels are expected to elect a new President, Prime Minister and Cabinet at today’s meeting.

The meeting is the result of the Muanikau Accord, an agreement in which the military gave Speight input in the new regime and immunity from prosecution in return for the release of all the hostages today. Both parties have signed the agreement.

Nine hostages were released early yesterday morning in a move the rebels said was a gesture of goodwill.

Meanwhile internet news-site www.fijilive.com reports that a chief negotiator in the crisis, Fiji Chief Ratu Epeli Kanaimawi, is believed to be Speight’s choice for a new Prime Minister. It has also released a list of Speight’s likely picks for the Cabinet positions.

Speight earlier stunned observers in Fiji by not including a position for himself in the new administration. Earlier he had expressed interest in the position of Prime Minister.

Following is a full transcript of yesterday evening’s article:

Kanaimawi for PM?

Ratu Epeli Kanaimawi, a chief who was asked to negotiate the release of the hostages from Parliament, is believed to be attempted coup leader George Speight's nominee for Prime Minister.

Speight is staying with the Tui Vuda, Ratu Josefa Iloilo as President and nominated two Vice Presidents, Ratu Jope Seniloli and Ratu Tevita Vakalalabure.

Iloilo is from the West while Seniloli is from Tailevu and Vakalalabure is from the North.

The nominations are aimed at splitting the top positions between the three traditional confederacies of Kubuna, Tovata and Burebasaga.

Kanaimawi is from Tovata.

The Speight Cabinet, announced following a meeting of the 300-strong Bose ni Turaga at Parliament today, has an obvious nationalistic leaning and will be proposed to the Great Council of Chiefs meeting in Suva tomorrow.

It is similar to the nationalist first cabinet announced following the 1987 military coup.

This was changed to accommodate more accomplished politicians later.

Tomorrow's GCC meeting is expected to be a fiery one and is likely to consider other nominees for President, including Bau's Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi and former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka.

It is unlikely all members of Speight's proposed cabinet will be appointed by the new President or Prime Minister.

The Speight cabinet has 22 ministers:
Prime Minister - Ratu Epeli Kanaimawi (Cakaudrove)
Attorney General and Justice - Matebalavu Rabo (Tailevu)
Finance and National Planning- Eroni Mavoa (Lau)
Fijian Affairs - Ratu Inoke Takiveikata (Naitasiri)
Foreign Affairs and External Trade - Kaliopate Tavola (Kadavu)
Trade, Commerce and Public Enterprises - Navitalai Naisoro (Kadavu)
Home Affairs and Immigration - Ratu Tevita Bukarau (Rewa)
Communications and Transport - Ratu Timoci Silatolu (Rewa)
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests - Ratu Josefa Dimuri (Macuata)
Civil Aviation - Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure (Cakaudrove)
Lands and Mineral Resources - Maika Qarikau (Cakaudrove)
Tourism - Viliame Gavoka (Nadroga)
Works and Energy - Iliesa Duvuloco (Tailevu)
ALTA and Sugar - Eroni Lewaqai (Ba)
Regional Development - Isireli Leweniqila (Macuata)
Labour and Industrial Relations - Poate Mata (Naitasiri)
Education, Science and Technology - Peceli Rinakama (Naitasiri)
Housing and Urban Development - Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu (Cakaudrove)
Youth and Sports - Simione Kaitani (Lomaiviti)
Health - Dr Viliame Sausauwai
Women, Culture and Ethnic Affairs - Adi Litia Cakobau (Tailevu)
Information and Media - Josefa Nata (Lau)
Speight has also proposed nine assistant ministers:
PM's Office - Adi Makalesi Tavaiqia (Ba)
Works and Energy - Ratu Simione Drole (Navosa)
Health and Social Services - Lolohea Seru (Ra)
Education, Science and Technology - Ratu Romanu Matanitobua (Namosi)
Communications and Transport - Viliame Savu (Lau)
Fijian Affairs - Ratu Epenisa Cakobau (Tailevu)
Lands and Mineral Resources - Mitieli Bulanauca (Bua)
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests - Lepani Tonitonivanua (Serua)
Youth and Sports - Peceli Vuniwa (Ra)

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